By Salla Kuuluvainen
I recently attended two events which made me think about futures thinking and it’s relation to service design and innovation. Innovation, by definition, is an act that reaches towards the future, and and engages the innovator in creating a future that may be something they wish for.. or not. How can we as innovators and service designers engage in creating those desirable futures?
50 years from 1968
I attended an event in Tiedekulma where the year 1968 was discussed. I went there, not because my studies of service design, but because I’m interested in changing the world, and when younger, also identified as an activist. One of the speakers, Johanna Vuorelma, a historian, claimed that politics in today’s world no longer are utopistic. In 1968 there was a real sense of trying to build a better, different world from previous’ generations’ with a World War and its horrors.
I could agree on that. The revolutionaries and activists of today no longer reach for a desirable future, instead they try to preserve something of old: a somewhat habitable planet or a shred of human rights, or a homeland that looks like in 1950`s if they are active in the conservative movements. So activism today may look like the same thing as
in the crazy year of 1968, but actually the drivers and motivators behind the actions may be very different.
Futurist as Designer
Another event I attended during Helsinki Design Week was Futures Talks, organized by Futures Specialists Helsinki. In the event we heard many different ideas and scenarios for future, some more positive than others. The idea that impacted me the most had to do with design thinking. The organizers discussed the idea of designing our futures, meaning that studies of the futures thinking is not just a passive act of trying predict what will happen – instead a we should see how each of our actions and choices creates the future in this very moment.
In conclusion of these two events I thought that maybe utopistic thinking does not happen in the realm of activism and politics anymore, but that sometimes more optimism and positive energy for change can be found around events that discuss design and innovation. Our final task at the event by FSH was to create a future wall with post-it notes about our personal utopias, dystopias or protopias – protopia meaning a world that is better by a small, achievable change. Maybe Service Design is actually just about that – creating a protopia for our everyday lives.
HC SVNT DRACONES?? Hä? What? Is that the theme? What that means? First day in Global Government Jam at City of Turku started with lots of question mark in the air – all where totally blown away. We had just introduced through pre-recorded video what GovJam 2013 is going to be and at the end of the video they revealed the secret theme. Which was: HC SVNT DRACONES.
Less talk, more action
We formed groups and begin to draw or write what ever did come to our minds. HC SVNT DRACONES. What images that brings to your mind. Well…fire, dragons, snake, lohi, Harley Davidson, HC – WC, doctors, cones, Latin, church, ancient writing – I started to warm up. So did the others. When 8 minutes had gone we gathered our thoughts in one table and started brainstorming. One thing led to another and soon we had couple of ideas to start with. From Latin to understand doctors and from hospitals and dragon eggs to customer rewarding system to rewarding doctors when they had performed understandably to their patients. After 15 minutes we had clue about our service concept. Wow!
Design is a central feature of our everyday life. But what is it? How do you define a good design solution? Is it about aesthetics, quality or functionality? How do you develop the creative process and when can you consider yourself a designer?
The discussions, lectures and exercises during the Design Thinking course were aimed at helping us answer all these questions. We were provided with different tools and methods to develop ourselves as designers and contribute to creation of new services.
Researching for inspiration & Benchmarking
The first group exercise started during the first contact session. The theme selected by our group was “Services for Museums” and we had to identify the problems of the current service offering and design new solutions. In groups of 5-6 people, we brainstormed on problems and possible solutions during the first contact day. As our first course assignment, we were asked to research the services that exist on the market, how they are represented in Finland and abroad, and how the services or lack of them affect potential consumers’ daily life.
“I never design a building before I’ve seen the site and met the people who will be using it.”
–Frank Lloyd Wright
Design thinking is a human centred design method, transforming needs into solutions. Design thinking could be called as a mind-set, a way of using creativity to tackle design problems.
How to solve a problem with design thinking?
Basically designs purpose could be making things easier. Not just easy to use, but making them better, thus making also the world a bit better. To start designing with this method, you need to have people on focus. To achieve this, a designer goes through a process from chaos of problems to implemented solution.
Design process is also a creative process, so first phase is to inspire ideas.
Thousands and thousands of new digital services are developed each day, by well-known design agencies, by new start-ups as well as by individual designers or developers in different organizations, projects and associations. Everyone on these aims to design services that are “easy to use”, “attractive” and “appealing”. However, it is rare to have a comprehensive understanding on how to actually do that in practise. Designing for the Digital Age:How to create human-centered products and services byKim Goodwin provides concrete guidance and instructions on those ”how to” questions, for running the design process, for designing successful services, for finding ways to deliver great user experiences and to minimise risks of driving customers crazy with complicated, confusing technology.
There is an ever growing list of definitions for design. Some people agree with Nelson & Stolterman who’ve said that “Design is the ability to imagine that-which-does-not-yet-exist, to make it appear in concrete form as a new, purposeful addition to the real world (The Design Way)” whereas others prefer Tim Brown’s version: ”Design thinking is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity”. For us, however, the most important lesson was that everybody can be a designer.
Group work starts – Museum on wheels sees its first ray of light
The beginning process of our group work was well structured. It all started from group formulation and first assignment. We were instructed to choose one most inspiring service of the given public services. Decision were unanimous, we would look deeper into fascinating world of museums. Everyone took a pile of post-it notes, a pen and a square of own space and started 10 minutes ideation flow. How we could improve museum experience? What would be the services which will attract customer attention? Something exciting, novel and unexpected. Continue reading →
The first test environment for combining Futures Thinking with Design Thinking takes place in Helsinki in two weeks ! This is an invitation to all design thinkers, futures thinkers, strategic minds and innovative leaders to take part in the day on Friday 9th November at the heart of Helsinki, Finland – The World Design Capital 2012.